A woman who doesn’t acknowledge that divorce can be a positive experience for women doesn’t get to write about women’s issues in a major newspaper.
Barbara Ellen, arguing we must “Sink the Pink,” because it is single-handedly “infantilising half the population,” notes that pink products are rumored to be high sellers among divorced and separated women, and asks: “What does this say—that when reality bites hard, so hard it draws blood, it’s time for a woman to reach for the pink stuff? Because then you are transported back to a time when everything is fluffy and pretty, and there are no monsters under the bed (or in it).”
Call me crazy, but I think that being treated as though we have no agency over major life decisions like divorce infantilizes women more than all the pink cell phones in the world ever will.
And, by the way, I have a pink cell phone, and I don’t believe that anyone who’s known me for more than about three seconds doesn’t understand intuitively (even if they couldn’t put it into words) they are witnessing what Sarah Vowell so perfectly described in “American Goth,” first on This American Life and then in Take the Cannoli, in which she goes to San Francisco for a goth makeover:
Step one of the guidelines is choose a goth name. Indra says, “Most of us have changed our names to be something more gothic. A lot of people legally change their name. Live it!” According to Mary, “If you go into any of the goth clubs nowadays, you’ll find a lot of spooky names—like Raven and Rat and Sage.”
…Maybe it’s because I came of age in the ’80s and I’ve seen Blue Velvet too many times, but to me, the really frightening stuff has nothing to do with ravens and rats. The truly sordid has a sunny Waspy glow. Therefore, I tell them, the most perverse name I can think of is Becky. It turns out that by saying the magic word “Becky” I have suddenly moved to the head of the class, gothwise. As Monique puts it: “You are understanding the pink of goth. You’re skipped a couple of levels and you went straight to pink.”
The group’s consensus is that pink is the apex of expert goth—that newcomers and neophytes should stick with basic black but those confident enough, complex enough, can exude gloom and doom while wearing the color of sugar and spice. Indra argues that pink can be “an intelligent, sarcastic color.”
Indeed. Irony, thy name is pink.
And sometimes Pretty Sweater That Looks Nice With My Skin Tone, thy name is pink, too—and there’s frankly nothing better that knowing you look hot and ironic.
In all seriousness, there is quite nearly a point in Ellen’s piece, but she’s too busy trying to prove that she isn’t one of those pink-wearing, ninny-brained tarts to actually make the point. And the legitimate point that could be made is that too often marketers associate pink with unseriousness, making pink cameras or wev dumbed-down versions of their black or silver equivalents. It’s like the offensive disparity of toys offered in the Discovery Channel Kids’ Store, at which boys are offered forensics kits and girls are offered nail decorating kits:
Mike notes “you have to get to the bottom of the girls page to see the ‘Discovery Whodunit? Forensics Lab’—the first item for the boys,” and also questions whether Marie Curie played with Jelloopdeloops. Well, pre-feminism, science wasn’t so much about accessorizing as it is now! Duh.
What’s actually most telling about the disparity between the boys’ and girls’ sections are the items that don’t make the crossover between the two at all. Beyond age 12, there’s no division by sex for teens and adults, so why the separation for kids under 12? Considering the vast majority of the stuff is listed on both pages, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Until, that is, you consider how patently absurd it would be to offer a toy nail salon as an “educational toy” in a non-gendered context.
Only seen through the prism of sex-separatism does all of the other completely unrelated-to-science crap being marketed to the girls—Make Your Own Twirly TuTu, Twist & Wrap Style Hair Salon, Jewelry Keeper, Fairyopolis Book, Hand-Powered Button Maker—seem passably “educational” to the uncritical eye. As expected, the stuff exclusive to the boys’ section—bug catchers, erector sets, horror balls (grody!)—are things that shouldn’t be considered sex-specific, but are, simply to offset the surfeit of pink rubbish being hawked to girls under the pretense of science.
That’s a point worth making. “Women who wear pink are stupid and I’m not one of them!” is not.